Denial – a powerful coping mechanism

Denial is a powerful coping mechanism that works like a good pair of blinders and allows people to ignore uncomfortable, difficult aspects of life.
Addicted people have a high likelihood of denial, which allows them to continue using and delay addiction treatment as long as possible.

Not all addicted people are in denial, and they may have differing awareness of their problems. Many people admit they have a problem, but they use denial to minimize the effect their addiction has on their friends and families, or on their career or finances.

  • Denial usually becomes stronger as addiction worsens. People who are in denial about addiction use a variety of techniques to justify or cover up their use of drugs or alcohol.
  • They’ve never been to jail, lost a job or had an accident. This must mean they aren’t addicted.
  • Many people have an attitude that alcoholics are losers or skid row bums, or that drug addicts are losers who are continually shooting up in dark alleys or flophouses.
  • Addicted people often tend to forget the problems with the last binge or bender. They forget the vomiting, blinding headache, or painful withdrawal symptoms.
  • Denial often involves stopping use for periods of time. People think if they are able to stop when they want, they aren’t addicted.
  • Addicted people learn to blame others such as nagging wives, screaming children or unfair bosses.
  • People may minimize their use in small ways. For example, they may say, “It was just a couple of drinks with friends.”
  • Lying is a common form of denial often used to minimize or cover addiction.
  • Denial is often driven guilt, shame, or other difficult emotions.
  • Friends, families and co-workers can also be in denial. Well-meaning people may cover up or minimize the problem, which enables the person to continue using without facing the serious consequences associated with their behavior.
  • Treatment should never be postponed or delayed. Earlier treatment may prevent serious consequences such as divorce, loss of finances, legal problems, accidents, or even death.

Breaking through denial is the first step to recovery, but this is never easy. Sometimes, addicted people may admit the problem on an intellectual level, but it may take weeks or months of treatment before the addiction is realized at an innermost, gut level.
However, it’s important to realize that treatment can break through denial and set addiction people on the path to healthy, fulfilling, substance-free lives.

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